Her excitement when she kills an animal is orgasmic.

Her name’s Melissa Bachman. She kills wild animals on American TV for a living. Sometimes with a rifle, sometimes with bow and arrow. According to her website, Winchester Deakdly Passion, Melissa enjoys killing. A lot.

She has a “genuine and fun loving personality … She’s having fun doing what she loves and it shows. You’ll leave each show feeling entertained and informed … This is one girl with a Deadly Passion.”



Until recently Bachman killed bear, alligator, deer, elk, wild turkey and wild hogs for her show. And nobody seemed to mind very much.

Eventually she went to South Africa and killed a zebra and a few antelope. Still nobody seemed to mind very much.

Then she killed a full-maned male lion, and posted a picture of herself, cradling her rifle, laughing triumphantly, while the once-magnificent lion sprawled dead at her feet.

And all hell broke loose.

Now, there’s no shortage of African lions in the world. In fact they breed faster than most wildlife reserves and game parks can manage them. So fast that some reserves cull prides to prevent lions eating every animal in sight.

And there’s nothing illegal about hunting lions. South Africa takes in millions of dollars a year from hunters who buy licenses to kill the big five for their trophy rooms — lion, leopard, elephant, buffalo and rhino.

Yet more than 245,000 South Africans recently signed a petition to their government deploring Bachman and her killing ways:

She is an absolute contradiction to the culture of conservation this country prides itself on. Her latest Facebook post features her with a lion she has just executed and murdered in our country. As tax payers we demand she no longer be granted access to this country and its natural resources.

Apart from the woman’s grotesque, inane, bloodthirsty smile, it’s hard to understand why there’s all the fuss about this lion killing.

Let me explain.

Five years ago I was executive producer, writer and narrator for Inside Noah’s Ark, a three-hour wildlife series shot in South Africa for the Discovery Channel. It also aired on Animal Planet, PBS and 15 international networks. Today it’s on Amazon.

The focus of Inside Noah‘s Ark is that wildlife reserves are no longer truly wild but have to be managed like giant ranches — huge zoos — if they and the animals they shelter are to survive for our children.

So there I am in northern South Africa’s bush veldt one hot summer day driving a Land Rover along a rutted dirt track through one of South Africa’s largest and most popular national (government) game reserves. The cameraman and I are looking for a pride of lions which, we’re told by radio, has just pulled down a giraffe.

As we drive out of a thicket of acacia trees a helicopter swoops low overhead and lands on the track in front of us. Five men climb out, four of them dressed in game ranger uniforms, the fifth man in an elaborate civilian camouflage outfit. Three of the men, including the civilian, carry rifles.

Turns out that the civilian is a rich American who’s paid something like $20,000 to hunt and kill a lion in this national park.

This is how it all works — lion prides are made up entirely of females (grandmothers, mothers, aunts, sisters etc.) with cubs of various ages. The females stay together for life.

Males come and go.

They come when they can force out the resident male, often seriously wounding or killing him.

They go when, in turn, a younger, tougher male defeats them in battle and takes over the pride. When that happens, the beaten male, formerly lord of up to twenty females, slinks off to live alone in the bush for the rest of his life.

Never again will he breed. Never again will he benefit from the pride’s highly efficient food-killing machine. His destiny now is to slowly starve until the hyenas and wild dogs eat him.

Many conservationists are practical, unsentimental people. They know that if they can sell hunting rights to the old male he’ll be put out of his misery before the hyenas and wild dogs get him.

Meantime, the money the hunter pays will go to improve the remainder of the reserve.

Which is what happens in the reserve we’re filming.

The helicopter has located an old, full-maned male soon after he’s driven out of his pride by a younger male. He’s still in good shape, but faces a bleak future.

The American hunter has paid his money and been dropped within a mile of the lion. Now he and one ranger leave us and disappear into the bush. The ranger is there as protection in case something goes wrong.

The old lion’s end will be quick and painless.

The hunter will have a magnificent, full-maned lion head to mount in his trophy room.

And the reserve will have an extra $20,000 to help look after its animals, many of them rare and endangered.

So here’s the question — would you sign the petition to the South African government deploring the TV hunter’s lion kill and demanding she never be allowed back in the country?

Or would you accept the fact that nature, like this wildlife reserve, is practical and unsentimental.

That it is sometimes necessary to sacrifice some animals for the good of the others?

What would you do?

 


This article was originally published on the Huffington Post on Nov. 22, 2013: Would You Hunt and Kill a Lion?

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